“Fifteen day concert tour in Norway? “ I heard myself say. And that too in Oslo itself? Wow, I thought. There must be quite a music appreciative audience out there…I pondered. Only then did I get the details. This was for the schools of Norway. The govt of Norway had collaborated with our own Spic Macay in bringing Indian artistes to Norway to spread Indian Classical systems, along with Indian values and Indian history and way of life to the younger crop of Norway. Hmm…must be a different experience, I assumed and set out on this tour along with Mridangam Arjun Kumar. The producer of the event, a Norwegian, met us in the lobby of the hotel in Oslo and briefed us about the schedule in the weeks to come. We would be performing for around 400 school kids every single day, split into three groups, consisting of 3 concerts per day. In a matter of 10 days, we would have performed for roughly over 4000 school children.
When we say performance, it did not mean just going to the venues and playing whatever comes to our mind. Every single presentation was treated like a Master production. There would be a Norwegian story teller, he informed us, who would spend a couple of days with us prior to the concerts and find out from us, the details of our instrument, our career, our training, our country and our music. So, Marianne spent two days with us along with the producer Hallgeir who spent many valuable moments on fine tuning the details to be crisper, concise and to the point. They made us perform the pieces that we would play for the concerts, video recorded them along with the story of the Veena and Mridangam told so enchantingly by Marianne in Norwegian. Played the recording over and over again to edit the script to keep the attention of the children totally glued every minute. After the script for the concert was perfected, it was tried on an audience consisting of people with varied mind sets. Their feedback was again incorporated into the production. There was a sound engineer allocated exclusively for this production, a lady sound engineer, Solrun, who would travel everywhere with us, know our sound, understand it and present it as authentically as possible. So, the team was made. Myself, Arjun Kumar, the story teller and the Sound engineer. Of course ably directed by our Producer. Each concert was about 40 minutes, packed tightly with the details of the instruments, the Indian system of music and our lives…all done with an aim of creating a suspense and expectation when the instruments are presented.
Once the final script was ready, the whole production came together and we went from school to school and performed for children from the age group of 6 to 14. It was an amazing experience every day, since this was the first ever concert of any kind for 99 percent of the children in their lives. Now, thousands of children in Norway know what a veena or Mridangam is. They know broadly what a raga or thala is. They also know what gurukulam is. This has been an amazing trip seeing fresh bright faces day after day that ask so many innocent questions every morning, like “ Are you jasmine from Arabian Nights? “ Why is there a dragon on your Veena?” ”Does he feel hungry”, “Does he listen to everything you play?”